Nate Diaz has flown the UFC nest with his popularity at an all-time high… now the MMA legend will find out if the grass really is greener with a Jake Paul clash, his own fight promotion and jiu-jitsu competitions all options now his contract has expired
- Nate Diaz fought out his UFC contract by beating Tony Ferguson on Saturday
- The fan favourite has been desperate to become a free agent and can cash in
- A boxing match with Jake Paul is on the cards but he wants to come back one day
- A trilogy bout against Conor McGregor will always be one the fans want to see
The weird and wonderful world of Nate Diaz will no longer be orbiting the UFC.
It feels strange to think of the much-loved Stockton fighter moving onto pastures new but he fought out his contract in typical style, finishing Tony Ferguson in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
To exit on a high is not only a fitting end to this chapter of his career, but gives Diaz extra momentum for free agency and whatever comes next.
Nate Diaz departed the UFC in the way only he could with a legendary finish and celebration
It’s now believed that Diaz will take the lucrative chance to face Jake Paul in a boxing ring
He can leverage his image and fanbase for lucrative opportunities, although the 37-year-old has never been motivated by money alone.
It was reported that he offered to sign a new deal with the UFC, if they also gave 10 of his team-mates a contract.
Loyalty, brotherhood and an unwavering passion for combat sport is what has made Diaz so popular, despite losing 11 times in the promotion.
He is anomaly in many senses but the fact he is so universally admired and supported regardless of his patchy record tells us of an unwavering appeal.
That power of personality is what propels Diaz to free agency and the new opportunities that await.
So where next? Diaz has spent much of his time railing against his employers but was surprisingly magnanimous in the octagon on Saturday night.
Paul is fighting Anderson Silva next month but there is appetite for the Diaz clash too
He said: ‘All I know is it’s been a love-hate relationship with me and the UFC. I did it today. I love the UFC. Shout out to [UFC President] Dana White. I feel like I’ve had the longest career in the UFC and the most successful one.
‘I want to get out of the UFC and show all the fighters how to take over and own another sport. Boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, I’m the crème de la crème right here and I’m coming for you.’
While White offered: ‘He’s been here forever. It’s been a blast having him here. I wish him well.
‘Me and him had this discussion months ago at the offices. Whatever he moves on to do, I wish him nothing but the best.
‘He’s starting his own organization or getting into promoting or doing something else, I wish him nothing but the best of luck. It’s been awesome having him here.
‘No matter what Nate does from here on out, this is his house.’
It seems both Diaz and White know their paths will inevitably cross again one day.
Diaz said: ‘Conor McGregor didn’t know how to do it. I’m going to go out to another profession and I’m going to go out there and take over that, show everybody I’m the best at that, then I’m going to get right the f**k back in here and get a UFC title.’
But for now, Diaz will be free to fight when and where he pleases, in whatever discipline he wants.
A clash with Jake Paul has been talked about and no doubt the YouTuber-turned-boxer is keen to add another MMA scalp to his list.
He tweeted respectfully about Diaz in the aftermath of Saturday night. Firstly, Paul posted a picture of Diaz submitting Ferguson, writing: ‘This is how you leave an employer and become your own boss.’
Paul later shared a short video, saying: ‘Nate Diaz is going into the sport of boxing. I wonder who he should fight?’
Diaz’s popularity is extremely high and he almost has a cult following among fans of the sport
But the former Disney actor is set to box Anderson Silva on October 29. It is likely to be his most difficult test to date and the desire for a boxing match with Diaz would diminish if he lost.
Interestingly, Diaz has not shown any real interest in fighting either of the Paul brothers in the past, despite being called out.
He previously wrote on Instagram: ‘The Paul sisters hired this security team to make sure I wouldn’t get to them, like I was actually trying to, but it’s all good with u guys I don’t take this fight thang with u2 serious.
‘You guys playing boxing with wrestlers who can’t box or lil ass Floyd and that’s not cool bruh but it’s good I’m a real fighter from the real fight game so don’t trip so hard when you see me fellas let’s just be friends it’s good.’
Whether that stance now changes remains to be seen. Diaz has never been a power puncher and there’s every chance Paul could knock him out in the same manner he did Tyron Woodley.
The Stockton fighter says he will be back in the UFC at some point to compete again
He’ll also be busy with his own fighting promotion.
Last week a statement on his behalf was released. It read: ‘Nathan Diaz will be applying for his promoter’s license in the coming weeks to form Real Fight Inc, a new promotion that will focus on promoting combat sports shows, specifically boxing, MMA and BJJ.
‘The new venture has no bearing on his status as a fighter, where he will continue to be very active. Real Fight, Inc. is his expansion into the business side of the sport where he has been a fixture for close to 20 years.
‘The promotion will look attract fighters from around the world, whether it be up and coming prospects or household names who fit the brand of ‘Real Ninjas. Real Fighters. Real S**t.’
As Eagle FC has kept Khabib Nurmagomedov busy, Real Fight Inc looks to be Diaz’s move into the promotional world.
Though the statement assured he would still be competing as a fighter, perhaps this move towards business will consume plenty of time.
Diaz is also launching his own promotion and will be kept busy as he gains his license
Diaz also adores jiu-jitsu so could well compete in one-off bouts to keep his eye in.
At 37, Diaz will be wary that too long a lay-off from competitive MMA could hamper him when he does return.
McGregor tweeted: ‘Congrats Nate Diaz on making it to the end of his contractual obligations with the UFC, and as a bonafide superstar goer. An incredible feat. Fair play. Our trilogy will happen.’
That trilogy will largely depend on McGregor’s status within the UFC. He’s in desperate search of a win when he returns from his broken leg but perhaps a defeat makes the Diaz fight more likely.
The money on the table from that third fight for all parties should ensure it happens one day but for now Diaz will be contemplating life outside of the behemoth that is the UFC. Over the coming months, he’ll see if the grass is indeed greener.
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